Feeds

Chip improves vision, baffles scientists

How does it do that?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A small photosensitive chip implanted in the retina has made a huge difference to the vision of patients suffering from the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, US researchers have shown. And it seems that an implant in one eye can actually improve vision in the other.

Dr. Ronald Schuchard, a leading researcher in the field, told delegates at the Vision 2005 conference in London that his team were at a loss to explain some of their results, particularly: improvements in vision in the non-implanted eye; improvements in areas of the retina that should not have been affected by the surgery; and improved colour perception, despite the fact that the implant is not capable of detecting or distinguishing colours. Vision 2005 is an annual conference that takes in all aspects of sight loss, including technologies and medical advances that could help people overcome blindness.

Schuchard's team implanted a 2mm diameter silicon chip, covered in photodiodes, in the superior temporal retinal area of one eye of each of ten volunteers. (For the non specialists, that is not right in the middle of the retina, but up and to one side.) The chip captures light that enters the eye, and generates an electrical signal that is transmitted to the overlaying neural cells of the retina.

Schuchard said: "We found that visual function improves not just in the area of the chip, but in the macular area too. We have no way of explaining this: there is no observable change in the macular area."

Patients also reported stretched contrast perception: from being able to see only a kind of greyish blur, one patient could see darker and lighter areas, post operation. Other patients reported restored or improved colour perception. One man said he was able to see blue for the first time in 20 years.

"We don't have good control ways of testing for these things," Schuchard told delegates. "We believe that the implant is not directly helping, but possibly causing a neurotropic effect. We believe it is to do with a recovery of photoreceptors that hadn't completely died off. Researchers are going after the mechanism, so guess what you'll be hearing about very soon."

The volunteers' vision before the implants ranged from bare light perception to being able to read fewer than ten letters on a sight chart at half a meter's distance. After the chip was implanted, the volunteers were re-tested and every single one showed a significant improvement: some patients could read 25 letters on the sight chart, post operation.

The improvement was best in the first six months, and sight does deteriorate again until about twenty months after the chip is implanted, although it is still significantly better than pre-operative sight. ®

Related stories

Public IT must be accessible: EC
BT automates talking book production
Artificial eyes by 2010, says EC

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.